An obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is commonly and stereotypically used to describe someone who likes to keep their surroundings clean or wash their hands at regular intervals.
But, when people reduce the signs of OCD and use it to describe these two limited categories of symptoms, it gets harmful for the rest. Being a clean freak or wanting to have things in order are definitely symptoms of OCD, but they are just a part of the spectrum. Not all people dealing with the condition have these symptoms.
However, when we reiterate these as the tell-tale signs of OCD, a whole different group of spectrums get sidelined.
So, the defining aspect of having OCD is not wanting to keep all your books in order. It is the fear and anxiety associated with the symptoms. The signs of OCD are divided into two categories – obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted thoughts that continuously arise and cause these fears. In order to deal with these fears, the individual indulges in different actions that are termed compulsions.
For instance, a person might be scared because of the obsessive fear of spreading diseases. To deal with this fear, they wipe the shower handle multiple times as a way to curb the spread. Even those fears might seem illogical or unfounded, but for those with OCD, they become the reality of their lives.
While these obsessions and compulsions include cleaning and keeping things in order, they also include a host of other signs of OCD. In this blog, we will explore the different types of OCD signs and symptoms to help you understand the aspect of OCD that stereotypes generally miss.
But before we get started, here’s something important.
Mental and neurological health are diverse and complex. They exist on a spectrum, and every individual has their own experiences. Therefore, don’t start diagnosing yourself with the knowledge you get by reading a few articles on the Internet (though we are incredibly grateful to you for stopping by to enhance your understanding of an important topic). If you find this article helpful or resonate with the symptoms explained in it, consider this as the beginning of your journey of getting the right help.
That’s it. Let’s dive in!
Warning Signs Of OCD
1. You think about harming yourself and others.
It’s a common experience – you are extremely angry and stressed about something or someone and get a fleeting image of hurting yourself or others. But the majority of us can distinguish these thoughts from reality. We understand that these emotions are in our heads and related to something stressful. We don’t actually want to harm anyone.
However, people with OCD believe that they might act on these signs. These are termed as aggressive compulsions. They can occur as thoughts of you jumping in front of a car, pushing someone else, or anything along those lines.
2. You are hyperaware of your body.
Body hyperawareness is one of the most prominent warning signs of OCD.
A person with OCD might be consumed with thoughts about a specific body part or bodily function. For instance, a person with OCD might be obsessed with blinking. They might be hyperfocused on how frequently they blink or how long they can go without blinking. Or, someone might be obsessed with their breathing and so on.
Increased awareness about itching, body positioning, heartbeat, pulse rate, salivating, etc., can all be signs of OCD. Additionally, symptoms of OCD can extend beyond this hyperawareness. Individuals might continuously seek information about these functions and even consult medical professionals.
3. It is difficult for you to control your thoughts and behaviors.
If you have OCD, you might recognize that you don’t need to check the door lock ten times to make sure it’s locked, but you still choose to do it anyway.
You might frequently have intrusive thoughts leading to behaviors you can’t control. Even a seemingly harmless action like wiping a table is a compulsion that you might act on.
Therefore, if you have such unwanted thoughts and behaviors and engage with them for over an hour daily, these are signs of OCD.
4. You engage in repetitive behaviors.
Having repetitive behaviors is one of the earliest signs you might have OCD.
Therefore, keep a keen eye out for your actions. If you constantly engage in repeat actions regarding a particular activity, it might be one of the symptoms of OCD.
These behaviors include hoarding, washing hands, locking or unlocking doors, etc. Not just that, it’s essential to notice how deeply these behaviors encroach on your life and affect your daily functioning.
5. You overestimate threats.
If you are someone who overanalyzes threats, even when they are unlikely, it might be one of the warning signs you have OCD. This also includes feeling vulnerable and believing that you might not be able to cope with the impact of the threat. You might constantly imagine worst-case scenarios.
For instance, if you have frequent intrusive thoughts about your relationship (also termed as relationship OCD or ROCD symptoms) and your partner texts you about having a conversation, you might automatically assume the worst. Your thoughts might start spiraling out of control as you can’t bear the thought of being alone.
6. You compulsively wash your hands.
Compulsive hand washing is one of the most significant warning signs you have OCD. In fact, it’s so common that frequent hand-washers are a separate class of OCD patients. The urge most commonly arises due to a fear of germs or making others sick.
But how do you differentiate between regular hand washing and one that’s a symptom of OCD?
The difference lies in how you feel about it. So, if you constantly think about germs even after washing your hands, worry that you aren’t scrubbing correctly, and are always anxious about spreading disease, your hand washing might be a symptom of OCD.
7. You have moral concerns that lead to a lot of praying and confessing.
One of the lesser-known signs of OCD is being too scared of God.
Yes, for those with OCD, faith, and belief go beyond just believing in God or wanting to live a life with morals. They might have obsessive thoughts about being morally incorrect and offending God in the process.
Therefore, if you constantly repeat the same prayers or want to confess seemingly normal activities as mistakes in front of God, you might be dealing with OCD.
8. You are a hoarder through and through.
Now, hoarding mementos and artifacts is entirely different.
But, if you compulsively hoard objects that have small to no value for you and might never be used, you might have one of the types of OCD called hoarding OCD or HOCD.
HOCD symptoms include stockpiling useless items, including garbage and other waste materials. This tendency might become so severe that the affected individual might live in a deplorable state just because they can’t let anything go.
9. You have unwanted sexual thoughts.
As per research by M. Williams and team, around 10% of people seeking treatment for any of the types of OCD report having unwanted sexual thoughts as one of the concerning symptoms.
These thoughts can include having flashes of taboo images or the irrational fear of being a part of inappropriate sexual activities.
Additionally, another common sign you might have OCD is having doubts regarding your sexual orientation, which can be intrusive enough to doubt yourself.
How Do You If You Have OCD?
There’s no other way to know whether you have OCD other than getting a proper psychiatric evaluation done by a qualified health professional. A mental health professional will observe your OCD tendencies and ask you a series of related questions.
There are no medical tests like blood examinations or scans to evaluate the signs of having OCD. But your doctor might insist on some evaluations to rule out any other possible conditions. OCD has overlapping symptoms with other mental health disorders like anxiety. Therefore, for starters, it can be extremely difficult to differentiate the signs of OCD from those of other disorders.
As per official statistics by Mental Health America, people with OCD generally spend around nine years on average to get the right diagnosis. This is because the early signs of OCD are frequently confused with:
- body dysmorphic disorder,
- anxiety disorders,
- psychotic disorders, and
- eating disorders.
It is also common for people to have co-occurring mental health conditions along with OCD, which makes it even harder for health professionals to make an accurate diagnosis.
Having OCD is a highly debilitating and confusing condition. While the signs of OCD are generally stereotyped as cleaning or keeping things organized, they aren’t. OCD occurs on a broad spectrum and includes multiple signs, including overestimating threats, fears of hurting others or yourself, having unwanted sexual thoughts, and much more.
If you resonate with the symptoms of OCD listed in this blog, don’t be scared. Treatments, including therapy and medications, are available for you to get better. But first, you need to find a professional to get the correct diagnosis.
Access to professional help is now easier than ever with the advent of online therapy platforms. To learn more about the most affordable online therapy platforms, click here.
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